What helps people grow in generosity?
By John Stanley
Sometimes I’d catch my single mom speaking inappropriately when she was stressed. As a little boy I would say, “Mom, I thought we were not supposed to use those words?” In her frustration, she would say with her British accent, “Well, do as I say not as I do.”
It occurs to me that if we want to help someone else grow in generosity it must begin with us. “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t work.
Others influence us most when their words and actions are consistent. We observe them and follow their lead because we believe they are the real deal. An advisor, a friend, or a colleague that is living generously is best suited to champion others to do the same. Can you think of such a person right now? Let me tell you why I ask.
All personal growth happens in relationships. Think about it.
Maintaining physical health and wellness requires us to have advocates, informants, medical professionals, and fitness coaches in our lives. Growing in our Christian faith requires both ancient and present day spiritual advisors. These people teach us to listen to the Holy Spirit. Generosity is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in us (see Galatians 5:22-23, NRSV).
As we seek to grow in this area, we can be greatly helped by others, who are already doing as they say in generosity. I like to refer to such exemplars as generosity champions.
Generosity champions are clear and confident. In their hearts, they desire to change the world around them. They spend themselves to make these changes, because they believe God has put them here for that purpose. As I have watched them, they don’t go at it alone. They reflect on their ability to influence others through personal connections.
Generosity champions build bridges for people. When they connect two people who share the same aspirations or challenges they practice what may be the most undervalued and inexpensive act of generosity. They open a door, send an email, make an introduction, or place a call. And, these people, as I have watched and learned from them, don’t push their own agenda but follow a higher one.
Generosity champions listen to the Holy Spirit and have hearts that confidently use their strengths and capacities generously. We can do this too. And it turns out that when we spend ourselves as a volunteer along these lines, we experience tremendous joy and fulfilment, while avoiding merely trading time for obligation. This results in us investing our time in others generously, not out of duty.
After getting clear about our heart’s desire, connecting others for their benefit, and volunteering in areas that match our strengths, we can spend financial resources with confidence and have enough to help others.
Now a little redemption for my mom who is now 94 and off to exercise after daily mass today. “Do as I say…” was rare, and in fact, she taught me this above all else. If we are to serve as generosity champions to help others to live generous lives, then often times money is the least effective gift. Mom would say, stop trying to make something happen and instead simply be present to others. Discover what God wants and help it happen.
I hope every person reading this will identify at least one generosity champion who can influence you and speak into your life. Think of someone who models generosity and ask them to teach you. But don’t stop there. Model generosity yourself and invest in at least one relationship in which you help at least one other person grow in
This article was first published by ChristianSuper.